Playoff Preview – NLDS Philadelphia Phillies vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Wednesday 10/1 at Philadelphia 2:00 PM
Mil - Gallardo Phi - Hamels

Thursday 10/2 at Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Mil - Sabathia Phi - Myers

Saturday 10/4 at Milwaukee 5:30 PM
Phi - Moyer Mil - Parra

Sunday 10/5 at Milwaukee TBD
Phi - Blanton Mil - Bush

Tuesday 10/7 at Philadelphia TBD
Mil - Sabathia Phi – Hamels

Results This Season
At Milwaukee
Brewers 5 Phillies 4
WP Stetter LP Hamels

Phillies 3 Brewers 1
WP Gordon LP Riske

At Philadelphia
Phillies 6 Brewers 3
WP Moyer LP Sheets

Phillies 7 Brewers 3
WP Hamels LP Para

Phillies 7 Brewers 3
WP Eyre LP Mota

Phillies 6 Brewers 1
WP Myers LP Suppan

About the Brewers

C.C. Sabathia came to the Brewers on July 7 and from day one he strapped the team to his back and carried them to a Wild Card berth. The Brew Crew felt they had enough pieces to contend for a division championship, then went out and got Sabathia and Ray Durham to around the trade deadline to strengthen that core. But it hasn’t been a smooth ride… The crew has struggled through a less than shaky bullpen, inconsistent and injury plagued starting pitching, and a September hitting slump, and a managerial change, to limp to the wild card. Now that they have reached the playoffs, more questions loom. Who is going to start? In a perfect world, they could trot C.C. Sabathia out there every day, but that certainly can’t happen. So, interim manager Dale Sveum has decided to send Yovani Gallardo out, just five months from tearing an ACL and one start back.

The Brewers know that if they are going to have any chance at this series, they have to get the most innings possible out of Sabathia (11-2 1.65 ERA). Sveum will start C.C. on three days rest, AGAIN, in game two, and then bring him back on normal rest for game five. This could be a disastrous move for many clubs, but CC is one of maybe a handful of pitchers around that can handle this kind of workload. With his strong lower half, near perfect mechanics, and easy throwing motion, there won’t be a terrible strain on his arm. The real question is, can his legs and condition hold up? Expect Philly speedsters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino to force Sabathia into using those tired legs to track down bunts early and often… Gallardo (0-0 1.88) will be making his second start since tearing his ACL attempting to hurdle the Cubs’ Reed Johnson to avoid a collision. What happens beyond that is anyone’s guess. The Crew should probably work Manny Parra (10-8 4.39) into the rotation, since he is the teams only left handed starter to combat the Phillies dangerous duo of Howard and Utley. The fourth starter will likely come down to Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan. While neither have been anything near spectacular, Sveum could opt for Suppan’s post-season experience.

The Brewers young bats have been coming up clutch in tight situations. The power hitting duo of Prince Fielder (.276 34 HR .879 OPS) and Ryan Braun (.285 34 HR .888 OPS) can make even the best pitchers change their approach. But, if the Brewers are going to make a run in the post season they are going to have to find some more production in the lineup. Sveum will send out a lineup without anyone hitting over .290 and full of equally unimpressive on base numbers. Over the last 30 days, the hottest hitters have been Fielder (.311 .971 OPS) and Ray Durham (.314 .956 OPS). The Brewers will need for JJ Hardy (.283 24 HR) or All Star Cory Hart (.268 20 HR 23 SB) to need a big series. Maybe CC and his .229 BA can come up with a big hit or two…

The Brewers bullpen has been well… interesting… Eric Gagne (4-3 5.44) and Guillermo Mota (5-6 4.11) once formed the best 8-9 inning punch in baseball with the Dodgers. Both have since come off the needle (Gagne per Mitchell Report and Mota with TWO suspensions) and now neither one have an ERA under 4.00. The Brewers have tried five separate guys at closer before finally settling on Saloman Torres (28-35 SV). Brian Shouse has been the unheralded star of the pen (5-1 2.81) and will likely play a large part in this series as a lefty out of the pen.

About the Phillies

The Phillies enter the playoffs with a late surge to win the NL East. Charlie Manuel’s squad features one of the most balanced lineups in the league. The dangerous combination of speed and power puts pressure on opposing pitchers all game long. The star of this team is the bullpen, with six relievers sporting ERA’s under 3.55. If Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and company can secure a lead into the 6th they are in good hands.

The Phillies possess and offense that can score in bunches. They can hurt you with the long ball with MVP candidate Ryan Howard (.251 .882 OPS) and his 48 HR’s. Chase Utley (.292 .915 OPS)and Pat Burrell (.250 .874OPS) both have 33 HR’s and Jayson Werth is no slouch either with 24 bombs. The Phightin’ Phils can also run you into the ground. Not only does Manuel’s club have four guys in double figures for stolen bases (Rollins 47, Victorino 36, Werth 20, Utley 14), but only Victorino has been caught more than three times. The Phillies run to the NL East Championship was aided by a number of Phillies swinging hot bats over the last 30 days. Ryan Howard is hitting .366 with 11 home runs over the last month. Speedsters Shane Vitorino (.347 last 30), Eric Bruntlett (.333 last 30) and Jimmy Rollins (.310 last 30) are all getting on base, making it even harder to navigate the heart of this potent lineup.

If there is a weakness in this Phillie squad, it might be the starting pitching… The staff is led by true ace Cole Hamels. The 24-year-old lefty is 14-10 with a 3.09 era, but has thrown 50+ innings more than he ever has. Although he hasn’t shown and visible fatigue, the combination of pressure situations and a long season could wear on him. Following Hamels will be the fiery Brett Myers, perhaps known more for his bone-headed sound bites than quality pitching. The converted closer is 10-13 with a 4.55 ERA and had to spend some time in the minors earlier this season to regain his composure. The ageless Jamie Moyer continues to baffle hitters with his repertoire of slow, slower, slowest and pinpoint control. Moyer seems to have found the fountain of youth and looks like he may be able to play until he is 50. Late season addition Joe Blanton will fill the role of 4th starter this series. Since coming over from the A’s he hasn’t been spectacular, but has eaten enough innings to get the ball to the stellar Phillie bullpen with a lead more times than not.

About that Phillie bullpen… Back to front, they are lead by the perfect Brad Lidge. With his nasty slider and mid to upper 90’s fastball, Lidge is a perfect 41-41 in saves and striking out well over a batter per nine innings. Setting the table for Lidge are JC Romero (4-4 2.75 ERA), Ryan Madson (4-2 3.05), Chad Durbin (5-4 2.87), and Clay Condry (3-4 3.26). JA Happ and Scott Eyre will also provide support as left handers in key situations. The Phillie bullpen has been nothing short of amazing, especially when you consider they lost set up man Tom Gordan to injury and have had to eat the bad contract of Adam Eaton.

Key Players and Pitchers
Milwaukee Brewers
Key Player – JJ Hardy – We all know about Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder but somebody is going to have to get on base to help turn the lineup over. Cory Hart just isn’t seeing the ball well and probably won’t be out of his slump until spring training. Hardy is going to have to be huge with the bat and in the field for the Brewers to be successful.

Key Pitcher – Yovani Gallardo – Of course CC Sabathia is the most important pitcher to the Crew, but the key to this series will be how they Brewers get out of the gate with Gallardo. This will only be his second start since ACL surgery but they have to keep the ball away from the bullpen and gasoline alley.

Philadelphia Phillies
Key Player – Pat Burrell – Burrell has had a very quiet season on his way to 33 home runs and is notoriously streaky. If he can put together a hot streak at the right time, it will force pitchers to throw to Utley and Howard or face the consequences.

Key Pitcher – Joe Blanton – Why is Blanton the key pitcher in this series? If Blanton is called upon to pitch with a 2-1 lead, he has to close the door. The last thing the Phillies want is to face C.C. Sabathia in a deciding game 5. If Blanton can give five solid innings, it should work out in the Phillies favor…

Game Preview and Predictions
Game One – Gallardo vs. Hamels in Philadelphia 2:00 PM
The Phillies will test Gallardo’s surgically repaired knee early and often, using their speed and peskiness in attempt to get on base. It won’t take many runs to help out Hamels but they will get plenty anyways. Phillies win 6-2.

Game Two – Sabathia vs. Myers in Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Sabathia won’t be as sharp as we have become accustom to, but sharp enough to best Myers in game two. Myers exits early to a couple of long balls and the Brewers are able to sit CC early and throw the game to their pen with a healthy lead. The Phillies make it interesting with a couple of late runs, but the Brewers pull it out 7-4.

Game Three – Moyer vs. Parra in Milwaukee 5:30 PM
The young Brewers aren’t able to figure out Moyer and Digger Phelps even makes the trip up from South Bend to see his son in law school the Crew in Milwaukee. The Phillies jump all over Parra early and win easily 8-2.

Game Four – Blanton vs. Bush in Milwaukee TBD
Once again, the Phillie bats come out early and get a couple of runs. Blanton does everything they need and gets through five with a 4-2 lead. The Phillie pen comes on to seal the deal and the bats pick up another insurance run. Phils win the series and the game 5-2.